Photo Credit: Jamel Mosely
Creative Under 40 Story by David King and Katie Cusack
Courtney Guttenberg: ‘Always looking at new stuff … trying to find the next thing’
Schenectady street apparel designer Courtney Guttenberg loves all things “dark and weird.”
It’s what has driven the self-taught Amsterdam native to create her funny, playful, hip and often creepy graphic designs for her clothing line nullvoid since founding the business in 2017.
Started to “combat the boredom of [Guttenberg’s] increasingly depressing 9-to-5 (and as a sequel to a failed college startup),” nullvoid has become a force that uplifts other up-and-coming graphic designers through collaborative collections as well as a source to educate and uplift communities in need of arts resources and a place to share their voice.
Guttenberg is also the founder of Hex Collective, an international arts collective with members from New York, Los Angeles and the United Kingdom who share ideas, projects and events. Through this, she hosts a poetry night and various arts-related events at Storied Coffee in Scotia.
Heavily influenced by skate, hardcore, rap and alternative scenes, Guttenberg has been itching to design clothing for the ever-evolving counterculture movement since she was a kid. But she never knew where to start. While studying communications in college, she decided to shift her senior year, teaching herself design through YouTube and making mock tees on Spreadshirt.
She began freelancing graphic design work out of college for “fast money” to build her skills and make some cash while working a 9-to-5 (as she still does today) and didn’t think she would have time to build a business of her own. But the work ethic was there.
Now, Guttenberg drops a new nullvoid collection every third Friday, and she’s hard at work on a line of tote bags, given New York’s new statewide ban on plastic bags.
“Even if I’m just relaxing, I’m like, ‘You could be making 15 designs right now.’ I have all these ideas,” she says. “It’s the balance of creative pressure. I’m always afraid that if I’ve got all these ideas now, when’s it gonna stop? So, I have to try to keep my brain as on point as possible—always looking at new stuff, always trying to find the next thing…I have every single thing being released through the end of 2020 planned out because that’s how I operate.”
Rachel Rice, who assists Guttenberg in popups and community events and has acted as an “ambassador” or influencer for the brand since its inception, admired the designer’s work on social media even before she started making clothing. Rice is one of the many friends, family, coworkers and skaters who were given shirts to introduce to the world, spreading the brand by word of mouth.
“At the time I had a sizable Instagram following. I got the word out because people everywhere were like, ‘Where did you get that shirt?’ And when I say everywhere, I mean in public walking around on the street, on Instagram, Reddit, Twitter,” Rice says.
Her favorite aspect of nullvoid is that the streetwear brand strays from the style of stamped-branding “spewed out over and over with a hefty price tag” she’s seen in big names like Supreme or Vape.
“There’s no set theme,” she says. “What’s cool about nullvoid is that there’s something for everybody in this reasonable price range that’s accessible to everyone.” That’s also how she feels about Guttenberg’s collaborations, where she’s trying to push the creativity of any artist who wants to be involved. “‘Forever dark, forever weird,’ but if you’re not dark or weird, you’re still in,” Rice says.
Nullvoid is currently sharing a “creative experiment” with Acrylic Matter apparel called “With Zero Faith.” In July, Guttenberg will release a collaboration with local glitch artist Michael Michael.
Guttenberg says she is inspired not only by the brands of skate culture she grew up studying, but the typography of Jenny Holzer, “’90s ennui”—driving her April release “Apathy”— or the bright colors and ironically terrible typography of trashy 2000s reality television and the chaotic, intricately designed world of graffiti and street art.